The Spurs stayed with the Heat by closing each quarter with scoring
I'll say this about game one of the NBA Finals...I had to watch it again to really understand what happened. The first viewing was so gut wrenching, nerve racking and shell shocking, I'm not sure I processed anything other than shots going in or being missed. I was like Adrian Balboa in the first Rocky; not even sure I could watch. At any moment I thought the whole thing was going to cave in on us like a deflated Dwight Schrute workout ball.
At the moments in the game when Mike Miller learned to float in the air like a dove, Ray Allen did his best Methuselah impression while hitting big threes and Dwyane Wade (who we'd been told was MIA) kept rising from the ashes to hit mid range jumpers like some ticked off phoenix. I thought we were in trouble. But in every moment of the game when the Spurs seemed to be on the edge of a precipice, and it looked like the Heat were going to go on a big run, the Spurs refused to die. The Spurs inability to accept their position in the grave has been an ongoing theme since 2005. I really feel like the Spurs have been labeled old for eight years. But, in watching Game 1 for a second time, after my nerves were calmed and I had a victory beer, I noticed that four timely plays kept the game in reach and created the victory. They all served as the last true possessions in each quarter and resulted in points for the Spurs. If these four plays don't happen, Thursday night might have been a "party on the beach till the break of dawn" as the Fresh Prince would say.
Finishing the first quarter
The first of these four shots came after a 22-12 Miami run, which began after they had fallen behind 9-2. The Heat were hitting their threes, LeBron James was facilitating and the American Airlines Arena had recovered from the really awkward White Stripes intro. Tony Parker was dealing with the trap on his pick and rolls, Timmy could not buy a bucket and the Spurs offense looked largely inept against the Heat's defense. The Spurs were down three following a Gary Neal hoop, and the Heat had the chance to extend it to a two possession game going into the second quarter. Manu stole the egg out of the Birdman's nest and seconds later he was rewarded with two points from this runner below.
The significance of this is that it pulled the Spurs back to a one point deficit after a very poor quarter. Also, Manu couldn't get his earlier attempt at the rim to go down and had only made one of his two free throws, so I believe dropping this shot kept his aggression level high for the rest of the game. The bucket was timely, but it also served to chip off any remaining rust that the Spurs had suffered from.
Closing the second
The second quarter was a mix of emotion. The Heat hit a barrage of threes to start the period, from Allen, Miller and Cole. But Timmy began to take advantage of the Birdman in the post and the deficit which had been nine, got continually smaller. Some Dwyane Wade mid-range jumpers helped the Heat push the lead back up to eight. It felt like the Spurs were hanging on by a thread and that it wouldn't take much for the Heat to bust the game wide open. At the half, Bill Simmons said that it looked like a game where Miami would run away with it, and I had to agree with him, as the Spurs looked to me like they had nothing. Wade made a jumper with six seconds left off an LBJ assist and the Heat were going to go into intermission up five, feeling pretty good about themselves.
However, with .8 seconds left in the half and Duncan on the bench to prevent getting a cheap third foul, the Spurs had the ball out of bounds and inserted Tim into the lineup. Breen said he thought they were putting Timmy in for a lob, in which Jeff Van Gundy responded "what are they going to do? Throw it an inch off the ground for him?" Clearly Poking fun at Tim's challenges in the vertical jump department. What resulted wasn't a lob, but a quick catch and shoot swish from the best power forward of all time, right in Wade and Joel Anthony's face.
After the buzzer beater, you can see Dwayne Wade throw his arms up in the air in disgust as if say, "What do we have to do to kill these guys?" Wade and the Heat probably felt like the opponents of that kid who passed out in the Spelling Bee championship. You know everybody was thinking "Oh yeah, he's down...wait, he's getting up...NO WAY!" The Spurs would rise over and over again in game one to spell their word right -- and that word was V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.
The end of the third
The next frame was as frustrating as quarters get for Spurs fans, as corner threes were missed and the Spurs could not seem to take a lead to save their lives. After all of the effort the Spurs expended in quarter number three, a five point deficit going into the fourth would have been huge for Miami. Manu just wasn't going to let that happen. In the most unsexy GIF you'll ever see below, Ginobili takes the ball into the paint (continuing his aggression from the first half) and gets swarmed by Birdman. Manu knocked down both free throws following the foul and the Spurs went into the fourth still trailing by three.
Fourth and final
The fourth quarter was a bevy of emotions for every Spurs fan. I wanted to cry with joy after Kawhi Leonard's tip in and Danny Green's three and I needed to bang my head against a wall in anger after Ray Allen went to the line shooting three shots. While the Spurs had finally gained the lead, and built it up to seven with an excellent run, with 31 seconds left they were only up two and Miami was going to get another shot at this game.
"This can't go down to Miami making the last shot," I told my friend who stuck with me the entire game. I could just see it coming down to on a Ray Allen three, or a Lebron drive-and-one. But, a tiny little Frenchman showed that he wanted a championship more than anyone else on the floor by making this shot and giving LeBron James the "longest 24 seconds of his life."
For a beautiful, High Definition Version, check out JRW's post on the play.
What do you even say besides, wow? So many things went wrong there, just like things had gone wrong for the Spurs all game. Yet Tony Parker busted out his best shot from HORSE, the ol' one kneed floating bank shot and the Heat couldn't match him.
Four timely shots at the end of four quarters, leading to a four point win, a Game 1 victory and a stolen home court advantage. The San Antonio Spurs are three wins away from not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE championships.
- Check out this video after the game of Shaq and Timmy's chest bump as the Spurs walked to the locker room after the game. This chest bump comes from Tim's former foe who played for the Miami Heat and won a championship with Wade. He also played with LeBron! But here he is, in the Spurs tunnel, congratulating Timmy!
What? I guess Shaq's love for The Big Fundamental can no longer be contained. A fist bump or a high five would have been a sign of homage and mutual respect, but a high five chest bump? That means that Kazaam himself is rooting against the Heat and cheering for his Hometown team. Wow...I'll take it.
- How bad does bow-tie Bruce Bowen at age 41 want to be out there playing against his arch nemesis, 37 year old Ray Allen? And I wonder what a duel between those two in this day and age would look like? You have to think Ray Allen is going to be an ESPN analyst when he retires and I can just see those two kicking each other in shins and jamming Ticonderoga pencils into one another's knees. Man, did those two hate each other...
- Speaking of Bruce Bowen, it wasn't Kawhi Leonard who provided us with the best #12 impersonation in Game One. It was Danny Green. Green attempted nine shots, all from three point land (making four) and he never got to the line. I think he played pretty good defense on Wade even though Dwayne's mid range jumpers were finding their way in. Not to mention, he provided Mike Miller with a nice face full of foot! I seem to remember Bruce liking to give the occasional kick to the face, like this one to Wally Szczerbiak.
- All I hear about is how the Heat have been in this position before. They lost in the first game to Chicago in 2011 and 2013, OKC in 2012, but came back to backdoor sweep all of those series. Though San Antonio is not the inexperienced 2011 Bulls, or the Roseless/Dengless/Hinrichless 2013 Bulls, or the Final-rookies Thunder of 2013...this stat still terrifies me.
The Heat have been here before, they've came back against veteran teams. They've looked like they were out of sync and out of rhythm time and time again since their evil collusion took place, only to rise and conquer. Because of this I need the Spurs to win Game Two. Yes I know, it's highly improbable and it would make this series really weird from here on out, but I need it for my sanity, because if the Spurs lose, I will be a nervous wreck thinking we will get backdoor swept too.
Make the Heat stop trusting each other and shock the world, San Antonio. Take your talents to South Beach's face, for me, for Cleveland, for the nine Toronto Raptor fans out there. For Timmy's sake! Make Miami winning a game in this series harder to obtain than admission to a Tony Parker backyard cookout.